Nick Bubb sailing his Mini Transat boat Kenmore Property Group/John Merricks Sailing Trust has finished fifth overall in the Transgascogne

After claiming his second prologue victory of the season the day before the start of the Transgascogne, Nick Bubb sailing Kenmore Property Group/John Merricks Sailing Trust finished the demanding first leg of the Transgascogne in fifth place overall. The 300-mile leg took the international 70-boat Mini fleet from Port Bourgenay north of both Ile d’Yeau and Belle Ile finishing in Gijon, Spain.

Bubb chatted after the finish: “The prologue was a great race for us even though it was the usual chaos at the start with 70 boats racing! There were four general recalls but we were really in the zone and hit the line on the gun. The boat speed was good and we led round the top mark. It was a coastal course lasting three hours and Jonathan McKee (Team McLube) was pushing us all the way round. We managed to hold him off until the last beat when he went the right way and overtook us. After we crossed the line we found out he had been over at the start, which gave us our second prologue win of the season. It boosts the confidence because we have now beaten all of the main Mini-Transat contenders this season.”

It was a complete contrast the next day at the start of Leg 1 as the largest solo Mini fleet assembled this season scrambled for the line. Bubb commented: “The whole fleet was gunning for the line and we were looking good but then there was a 20 degree shift with 15 seconds to go! I couldn’t even lay the pin and we were totally buried along with McKee. There was nothing to do but bail out and ignore everyone else. The first short reaching leg inshore was fine but the beat up to Ile d’Yeau was a total shocker. There was very little wind and I had a ‘dose of the slows’ to deal with: I ended up backing the boat up five times to clear the weed from the keel. Psychologically it was a good learning experience because you have to work through the problems on your own. You can’t afford to be slow for too long against these guys!

“I managed to catch McKee and tack right in front of him. He was down below at the time and came up to get the shock of his life: we were only three lengths in front! But then it happened again and we were slower – on top of that we sailed into our own personal header. Mentally it was very tough as we slipped down the field.”

Relief came after the fleet rounded Ile d’Yeau for a 50-mile beam reach to Belle Ile:

Bubb continued: “We went round Ile d’Yeau struggling for position in about 18th. I was pretty down about it and stuck the pilot on to get some rest. There wasn’t much wind but the boat is good on the reaches and we managed to round Belle Ile 10 hours later in 8th! There was a solid 15 knot breeze after that for 10 hours although it was upwind all the way. I had planned to go further West to avoid the high pressure but I couldn’t go as far as I wanted because the wind had already shifted. Fred Duthil (All Mer) and Jonathan McKee had managed to go much further and it really paid for them at the end of the race.

“I could see Eskill Degsel (Classic) in front and I spent an extremely hard 24hrs trying to catch him in virtually no wind. We had moved up to the top five but closing the gap was incredibly tough mentally and physically. I was trying everything including climbing the rig to search for the breeze. Slowly I clawed back the distance but I was pretty tired when I finally caught him. He tacked off whilst I was asleep and found some more breeze – everything I had gained in 24 hours was gone in just 1!

“Eskill was first into the bay at Gijon but there was no wind at all where we were. McKee and Fred Duthil came flying in from the west and Armel Tripon was there as well; their strategy had really paid off. I think we were up in third with 12 miles to go but they came steaming through to fill the first three positions.

“It was really dramatic at the end because I saw my first whale. It broke the surface and soaked the whole boat. It was totally crazy but an awesome experience at the same time. Overall I am delighted to get another top five position in my first major solo offshore race especially after a frustrating start. It was a good learning experience and shows how mentally tough it can be when the wind is so light. Duthil and McKee had a really close race and we were all suffering from spending too much time in the sun. I think Jonathan totally ran out of water.”

Leg two begins on Saturday 26 July with the fleet racing direct to Port Bourgenay. Bubb will then deliver Kenmore/JMST to Cowes for the middle of Cowes week. He will use the four-day delivery to improve his French with a French co-skipper and a total ban on English onboard!

Results (after Leg 1)

1st McKee Jonathan 247 Team Mc Lube, 19:56:24

2nd Duthil Frédéric 265 All Mer, 20:02:52

3rd Degsell Eskil 429 Classic, 20:14:42

4th Tripon Armel 151 Moulin Roty, 20:53:20

5th Bubb Nick 419 Kenmore/JMST, 21:41:10